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Veterans Club Has New Name, Expanded Vision

November 2, 2017

This fall, the Veterans Affairs Club expanded its outreach with a new name: Students in Support of the Military and Veterans (SSMV). With the new moniker, the Club hopes to strengthen its connections among students, service members, and veterans on campus.

“It is a great way for the veterans and the students to support each other, to get to know each other, and help each other in school and through life,” said James Elliot ’18, who has been a member of the club for more than two years.

Beyond assisting veterans with the transition from the military to classroom life, SSMV highlights how much they can contribute to the academic environment.

“Veterans have worked for at least four years in the military, they can help bring some insight and real-world experiences into the classroom and share that with all of the students,” Elliot explained.

Sharing those unique experiences from military life is exactly what one of the club’s Veterans Day programs aims to do. At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 9, the club, in partnership with the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education, will host Dr. Donald W. Barton, who will deliver a lecture on his service during World War II.

Dr. Donald W. Barton, then and now.

Dr. Donald W. Barton, then and now.

A First Lieutenant and Bombardier-Navigator in the 8th Air Force, Barton was shot down by fighters over Germany on his 20th mission in July 1944 and was held as a Prisoner of War until the end of the conflict. His experiences resulted in a continual array of interesting and sometimes unbelievable consequences over the last 73 years.

After his service, he earned a doctoral degree in genetics from UC Berkeley, and worked as a professor at Cornell University and as the director of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. He also spent 12 years as an international consultant on agricultural research management.

The recipient of the Air Medal with two clusters, Purple Heart with two clusters, and a Prisoner of War Medal, Barton’s recollections of the war are included in a new publication about World War II, My Heroes and Their Stories for Survival, and he was interviewed for the Library of Congress WWII history series.

James, who will offer introductory remarks before Barton’s talk, said the lecture offers the chance for students to hear about the experiences of a POW.

“I find the experiences of POWs to be fascinating in regards to their survival skills and their high regard for their comrades that also served as POWs,” he explained. “It is always really interesting to hear how they survived and how they put their country ahead of themselves for the betterment of the world.”

In observance of Veterans Day, the Club also will create a display of American flags throughout LeChase Commons on Friday, Nov. 10. The display will remain in place throughout the weekend.

Later this fall, the club plans to help with the Marine’s Toys for Tots program, hosting toy drop-off locations on campus and delivering and sorting items at the organization’s warehouse.

To learn more about Students in Support of Military and Veterans, visit their page on FisherSync, or email Monica Gebhardt, assistant registrar and veterans coordinator, at